UPDATE: GOP running strong in state legislative races

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Republicans appear poised to maintain overwhelming majorities in both chambers of the Kentucky General Assembly. And Senate Majority Leader Robert Stivers II, a Manchester Republican, said as much in a media availability in which he took jabs at Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear who he said wasn’t “having a good night.”

Stivers, who has been increasingly critical of Beshear, who he has called a “dictator” for his mandates in an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus.

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Democrats targeted suburban districts in hopes of whittling away at the GOP’s strength in rural districts. Republican Rep. Jason Nemes of Louisville is in a tough reelection fight and Democrats are hoping to pick up the Lexington seat — House District 45 — of retiring GOP Rep. Stan Lee.

But late Tuesday night, the race still was too close to call with Republican Killian Timony holding a narrow 500-vote lead over Democrat Shirley Mitchell.

Republicans congratulated Timony on a victory.

“Congratulations to State Representative-elect Killian Timoney on winning his hard-fought campaign. As a career teacher and administrator, Killian will be a strong, independent voice in Frankfort for continuing to make education work better for Kentucky’s students, teachers and families,” Republican Party Chairman Mac Brown said.

A state Senate race in eastern Kentucky features candidates with the same last name. Democratic Sen. Johnny Ray Turner is being challenged by Republican Johnnie Turner and the Republican challenger is winning the seat in early returns.

Likewise, a Republican is winning a state Senate seat that has long been held by Democrats. In District 7, Republican Adrienne Southworth is taking the seat that had long been a Democratic stronghold, defeating Democrat Joe Graviss, McDonald’s franchise owner who gave up a state House seat after one term to run for the Senate, and Independent Ken Carroll.

All three candidates have deep political ties and connections.

Below is a wrap up and analysis of the legislative races by The Babbage Report:

Kentucky Senate Analysis

Special Election Recap:

Ernie Harris’ (R-26) retirement triggered a special election. Democratic candidate and Louisville radiologist, Karen Berg beat businessman and Oldham County resident Bill Ferko. The defeat was the GOP’s first Senate loss in 10 years. Given that Republicans came out of the 2018 election cycle with 29 seats to Democrats 9, the GOP will be targeting more competitive districts as Democrats seek another pick up.

Republicans:

3 Republicans are running unopposed, most notably Senate President Robert Stivers. Sen. Rick Girdler, who serves as Vice Chair of both the Economic Development Committee and the Banking & Insurance Committee, has no opponent. At the end of the 2020 session, Sen. Stan Humphries retired, leaving district one open. Republican Jason Howell was the only candidate to file for the seat, making him the default victor.

Democrats: 

5 Democrats are running unopposed, including Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey and incumbent Senators Reggie Thomas, Gerald Neal, and Denise Harper Angel. Sen. Perry Clark retired at the end of the 2020 session, opening up district 37. David Yates emerged from the four-way Democratic primary, and faces no GOP or third-party opposition.

Races to Watch: 

District 23: Currently held by Christian McDaniel (R)

Christian McDaniel (R) vs. Ryan Olexia (D): Race is competitive as voter registration numbers are near equal with a large independent faction. Trump +18 / Beshear +6.

District 29: Currently held by Johnny Ray Turner (D)

Johnny Ray Turner (D) vs. Johnnie Turner (R): Yes, you read that right. Both the Democrat and Republican candidates have the same first and last names, albeit different spellings. Our sole prediction: this remains a Turner seat. Trump +58 / Bevin +8.

District 31: Currently held by Phillip Wheeler (R)

Phillip Wheeler (R) vs. Glenn Hammond (D): Freshman Senator Wheeler faces his first general election, after having won a special in March 2019. Wheeler is the first Republican to emerge from the district in over 50 years. Trump is exceedingly popular here, but Democrats have a long-time hold on the area. Trump +62 / Bevin +13.

Open Seat: 

District 7: OPEN – Currently held by Julian Carroll (D)

Joe Graviss (D) vs. Adrienne Southworth (R) vs. Kenneth Carroll (I): Former Governor and current State Senator Julian Carroll retired this year after decades of service in state government. His leaving frees up a long time Democratic stronghold. Current first term Rep. Joe Graviss is the Democratic candidate for the race and got Carroll’s endorsement a while back. Adrienne Southworth, former aide to former Lt. Gov. Jeanene Hampton, won a five-way GOP primary. To add interest, Julian Carroll’s son, Ken, filed as an independent candidate near the end of the deadline. With his name recognition, Ken Carroll could swing voters his way to make for a tight race. Trump +26 / Beshear +6. It appears Southworth will win the seat, flipping one more to the Republicans.

Kentucky House of Representatives Analysis

Republicans:

20 Republicans are running unopposed, including four newcomers: Josh Bray who defeated current Representative Travis Brenda; Josh Branscum; Shane Baker; former State Rep. Tom O’Dell Smith.

Three members of leadership do not face any opposition in the General, Speaker David Osborne (Prospect), Speaker Pro-Tempore David Meade (Stanford), and Caucus Chair Suzanne Miles (Owensboro).

A handful of committee chairs also lack General challengers: Appropriations and Revenue’s Steven Rudy (Paducah), Judiciary’s Jason Petrie (Elkton), Transportation’s Ken Upchurch (Monticello), Budget Review Subcommittee on Transportation’s Sal Santoro (Florence), and Education’s Regina Huff (Williamsburg).

Democrats: 

15 Democrats are running unopposed, including Pamela Stevenson who will assume the seat of current Rep. Charles Booker (Louisville).

Two members of leadership do not face any opposition in the General, Minority Floor Leader Joni Jenkins (Shively) and Minority Whip Angie Hatton (Whitesburg).

Races to Watch:

District 11: Currently held by Rob Wiederstein (D)

Rob Wiederstein (D) vs. Jonathan Dixon (R): This is Wiederstein’s first re-election effort. This  seat was previously occupied by current State Senator Robby Mills. This district includes Henderson, and very rural areas of Western Kentucky. Trump +26 / Beshear +6.

District 29: Currently held by Kevin Bratcher (R)

Kevin Bratcher (R) vs. Suzanne Kugler (D): Kugler was a Jefferson Co. school teacher for 21 years before retiring. Trump +18 / Beshear +11.

District 33: Currently held by Jason Nemes (R)

Jason Nemes (R) vs. Margaret Plattner (D): Plattner is a Lt. Commander in the US Navy. She spent 20 years in state government including a stint as the legislative liaison for the Kentucky Department of Veterans Affairs. Trump +7 / Beshear +14.

District 81: Currently held by Deanna Frazier (R)

Deanna Frazier (R) vs. Mike Eaves (D): Deanna Frazier faces Mike Eaves, the father of Frazier’s 2018 General Election opponent and current legislative aide to the Governor, Morgan Eaves. This seat includes downtown Richmond.

District 96: Currently held by Kathy Hinkle (D)

Kathy Hinkle (D) vs. Patrick Flannery (R): Freshman Rep. Kathy Hinkle is in a district that supported Trump in 2016 and faces former Carter County Attorney Patrick Flannery.

District 99: Currently held by Richard White (R)

Richard White (R) vs. Bill Redwine (D): Rematch of special election between Bill Redwine and Richard White. Former Minority Leader and current Special Advisor to the Governor, Rocky Adkins, held this seat for nearly 40 years. White beat Redwine by roughly 1,000 votes in the March special election.

District 100: Currently held by Terri Branham Clark (D)

Terri Branham Clark (D) vs. Scott Sharp (R): Freshman Rep. Terri Branham Clark is in a district that went heavily for Trump in 2016. Her opponent, Scott Sharp, ran for State Senate in 2018.

Rematch Races:

District 13: Currently held by Jim Glenn (D)

Jim Glenn (D) vs. DJ Johnson (R): This is a rematch of the famous 2018 race, decided by 1 vote. Both parties have put a lot of time and effort into this race. Trump +15 / Beshear +13, obviously a swing district.

District 24: Currently held by Brandon Reed. (R)

Brandon Reed (R) vs. Terry Mills (D): Former State Rep. Terry Mills held this seat from 2011-2017, before losing to Reed in 2016. Mills challenged Reed in 2018 and does so again this year. Reed most recently beat Mills by 2,100+ votes.

District 48: Currently held by Maria Sorolis (D)

Maria Sorolis (D) vs. Ken Fleming (R): In 2018, Maria Sorolis upset former Rep. Ken Fleming by 326 votes. Arguably one of the toughest districts in play. Went from McCain +10 to Trump +2 / Beshear +17.

District 66: Currently held by Ed Massey (R)

Ed Massey (R) vs. Robert Henriquez (D): Robert Henriquez challenges freshman Rep. Ed Massey once again. Massey beat Henriquez by 4,765 votes in 2018.

Open Seats: 

District 22: OPEN – Currently held by Wilson Stone (D)

David Young (D) vs. Shawn McPherson (R): Longtime State Rep. Wilson Stone chose to retire after this term. The district is partially rural. 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts split these areas. Both Congressman Comer and Congressman Guthrie are extremely popular. Trump +52 / Bevin +21.

District 39: OPEN – Formerly held by Russ Meyer (D)

Carolyn Dupont (D) vs. Matt Lockett (R): Former Nicholasville Mayor Russ Meyer retired from the House after 5 years. In the heart of Central Kentucky, this district is trending purple. Depending somewhat on the turnout from the top of the ticket, either party could win.

District 45: OPEN – Currently held by Stan Lee (R)

Killian Timoney (R) vs. Shirley Mitchell (D): Lee has held this seat for 20 years and announced his retirement very shortly after the 2020 candidate filing deadline. Killian Timoney (R) and Shirley Mitchell (D) face off in November. This district is changing – what used to be a GOP stronghold did not support former Governor Matt Bevin. Trump +11 / Beshear +15.

District 56: OPEN – Currently held by Joe Graviss (D)

Lamar Allen (D) vs. Dan Fister (R): First-term Democrat Joe Graviss is running for State Senate. The Republican candidate, Dan Fister, has been on the ballot twice before (2016 and 2018). Fister faces off Fayette County public school teacher Lamar Allen (D). The district includes all of Woodford County and parts of Fayette and Franklin counties. Trump +12 / Beshear +16.

District 70: OPEN – Currently held by John Sims (D)

Craig Miller (D) vs. William Lee Lawrence (R): Popular local businessman John Sims chose to retire this year. Rural Eastern Kentucky counties make up this district. The Democrat, Craig Miller is a current Bracken County Magistrate. Trump +49 / Bevin +14.

District 91: OPEN – Currently held by Cluster Howard (D)

Paula Clemons-Combs (D) vs. Billy Wesley (R): This State House seat flips between Republican and Democrat every two years. A lot depends on how Trump performs. Trump +54 / Bevin +17.

District 93: OPEN – Currently held by Chris Harris (D)

Rod Varney (D) vs. Norma Kirk-McCormick (R): Turnout will be key in this race. Trump carried this area by +68 points. Bevin +18